Women on TikTok are claiming they’ve unlocked a power portal within themselves through leaning into their “dark feminine energy”. Look up the term and you’ll find young, mostly white women, smizing into the camera with half-withering, half-seductive stares and claims they’ve learnt to manipulate men and maximise their sexual appeal through several important behavioural changes. It’s either that, or reposted images of Euphoria hottie Alexa Demie with overlaid text telling you to lean into your dark side.
To understand what dark feminine energy is, let’s first take a look at its inverse: Light feminine energy. According to TikTokers, these are submissive, cute personas such as Marilyn Monroe, who apparently utilised this power to manipulate men (a bit like “the sexy baby”). Dark feminine energy, on the other hand, is all about being dominant, assertive and most importantly, sultry. It’s about setting boundaries, saying no to people and manifesting success.
Ari Selene, 25, came across spiritual TikToks last July and transitioned into making dark feminine energy videos in November. “I felt this call to explore this aspect of myself. It was more so an inner calling,” she says. Through connecting to this energy, she says she has become less of a people pleaser. “I've been enjoying sex more, manifesting my desires and honing my psychic abilities.”
Based near New York City, Ari felt she “fully stepped into” her dark feminine after experiencing lots of big life changes. “I left my job, my four-year relationship ended, my social circle changed.” Stepping into the energy allowed her to “become less afraid of the necessary shifts happening in my life”.
Ari loves that dark feminine energy is a trend, as she believes it offers solace from the trauma of living in a patriarchal society. “A woman in her dark feminine energy can be very emotionally intense or can come off as a ‘bitch’. But really, this woman is just honouring her emotions and boundaries. It is a way for us to reclaim that power because we have been giving it away to others for far too long,” she says.
The term – which currently has around 732.1m views on the app – appears to be the latest in a long line of TikTok trends combining self-help, girlboss feminism, witchy language and spirituality. As ever, it draws on well-known tropes – this time repackaged under a sexy black-vinyl femme fatale aesthetic.
The past five years have also seen the reclamation of bimbos (as socially aware figures who reclaim power through hyperfemininity), the rise of the “trad wife” (those who find empowerment through female domesticity or chores) and the “villain era” TikTok trend (where users encourage others to push back on gendered expectations by being more unapologetic). But, like some of these previous trends, the “empowerment” of dark feminine energy is perhaps a little murky.
On the surface, most of the advice given under the dark feminine trend are all positive things to incorporate into your life, but lots of the popular videos angle this guidance as a way to manipulate men, bring back an ex or become “instantly more attractive”. The information may be about bettering yourself, but the aim is often so others, namely men, will want to have sex with you.
Aside from centering men, it’s hard to dissect how dark feminine energy differs from the bimbo or villain trend, which similarly aims to reject societal expectations of women. This one is simply darker and witchier. Alexa Demie is the main poster girl for this TikTok scene, as is Megan Fox, Bella Hadid and Zendaya who are all assumed to have knowingly leant into their dark feminine energy to be as successful and attractive as they are - not the fact they’re objectively smoking, adhere to our beauty standards and may have played femme fatale characters on screen.
Aleesha Simone similarly posts dark feminine energy TikToks and first came across the concept through an interest in Tantra and energy. She thinks users on the app often misrepresents the true practice which is more about embracing emotions, even those you would rather repress.
“I think a lot of content we see on TikTok and other apps that relates to feminine energy is again similar to what we see in mass media. It's all about 'how to be more feminine to seduce the man you want', 'how to be more feminine to be more attractive', 'how to look more feminine' – all these very surface level things about 'feminine energy',” says Aleesha, who is based in Australia.
In some instances, dark feminine energy TikTokers encourage users to cut off people (no nuance is offered as to why), while many of the bigger accounts direct users to recent books they have written on the subject or masterclasses for a price.
Anna Neza is not a fan of the trend. The 22-year-old from Canada shared her grievances on TikTok recently, and believes the videos are “clickbaity” and problematic. Many of the videos she encountered appeared empowering and then stated at the end it could be used to get a man. “Usually rich, handsome, someone who can financially provide and make you feel like a queen. Very sugar baby-like!”
“It can be misleading if you aren’t conventionally attractive,” she says. “I think that some people genuinely want to awaken a sort of powerful side to themselves and seek these channels for help but end up being taken back to a space that centres men and what men are thought to think is desirable for a woman.”
She feels this is “harmful” as “young viewers may internalise that self-improvement ultimately is for men and mens’ desires. Or you think you’re improving yourself when in reality you’re just ending up in the same place as the women changing themselves to become what they are told to believe are mens’ dream women”.
The rise of TikTok self-help spirituality is not surprising. “Alternative spirituality never went away,” says Professor David Voas, a demographer and sociologist of religion at UCL. “And women are still trying to negotiate the best route to take in a society that remains dominated by men.”
He argues dark feminine energy takes a number of positive qualities (self-esteem, assertiveness, sexual confidence) and wraps them up in what many would call pseudo-spiritual ideas. “I suspect that the ‘be a witch, don’t be afraid to be a bitch’ message is appealing to women who frequently feel disempowered by the world around them.”
TikTok has become a merry-go-round of self-help and new persona trends claiming to deliver empowerment to women, if they change themselves. On top of this, there’s an emerging business to selling these ideas to an emerging, Gen Z audience.
At the end of our interview, Ari says she’s launching a course on how to tap into your dark feminine energy, too.